If you've ever attended a funeral, you know that the last portion of the service comes after the guests have departed: lowering the coffin into a prepared grave. But who prepares that grave? While it's not glamorous and certainly few people ever think about it, a grave-digging business can be a lucrative endeavor with little or no competition. And a single grave-digging company can serve several communities simultaneously, thus staying busy no matter how the economy behaves.
Check with your local health department to learn what--if any--laws govern human burial. Some localities regulate the depth of human graves, while others do not, so be sure you make yourself aware of the requirements governing every area of your business. Consider consulting an attorney to ensure that your business will conform to all relevant state laws.
Decide how much money you'll need to make for each job. Begin with how much money you need to earn each week and divide that by a reasonable number of jobs per week to determine how much you'll need to charge. Alternatively, you can call some cemeteries outside your area and simply ask what the going rate for grave digging is.
Print basic invoices on your home computer or buy blank invoice forms at your local office-supply store. Most businesses provide "net 30 days" terms; that is, an invoice from them is due to be paid within 30 days of its issue. You may make your invoices "net 14 days" to speed payment, but be aware that some companies need nearly 30 days to process invoices through their accounting system. You should ideally have one to three months’ worth of personal and business expenses in reserve to tide you over until payments start coming in.
Have business cards printed with your name and contact information, along with a brief description of your services. You may want to add a stock picture of a lily, cross or other symbol associated with funerals. Prices for full-color business cards with stock graphics start at $30 for 100 cards (as of August 2010) at most large office-supply stores. And for a little more, these stores provide next-day service.
Visit as many of the cemeteries in your area as possible in person so that you can introduce yourself to the management and present your digging service to them. People are more comfortable doing business with someone they've met rather than simply a voice on the phone, so plan to use these visits to begin friendly relationships with your future customers.
Consider renting a digging machine (such as a backhoe) for each job, along with a trailer to transport it, rather than digging by hand. Your time is your most precious commodity, and automating the digging process will not only save your labor but also help you to deliver on-time, professional service for every customer. As your business grows, you may be able to save money on equipment by buying or leasing it.
As a sole proprietor, you are not required to file any forms with state or federal government in order to conduct business.
- As a sole proprietor, you are not required to file any forms with state or federal government in order to conduct business.
Mike Andrews is a freelance writer and serial entrepreneur focused on small-business and entrepreneurship for average people. He holds a bachelor's degree in biblical studies and a master's degree in theology and has appeared in a wide array of print and online periodicals including "HiCall," "Mature Living" and "Caregivers Home Companion."